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U.S. health task force addresses sex and gender inclusivity in guidelines

People who are transgender, gender nonconforming and gender nonbinary can face health care barriers ranging from negative experiences to unclear health guidelines.

Now, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is adopting a policy to help address those issues.

The task force periodically issues recommendations for preventive health care. But that advice is based on research that often ties results to sex assigned at birth and only rarely differentiates sex and gender.

That makes it difficult for doctors and patients to know which advice applies; cervical cancer screenings apply to anyone with a cervix, but the breast cancer risk faced by someone who is transgender is unclear.

Moving forward, the task force will review research with these issues in mind, include stakeholders from diverse sex and gender backgrounds, use gender-neutral language when appropriate and clarify whether guidelines apply to people with specific anatomy or in certain gender identity categories.

Nicholas Gerbis joined KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk in 2016. A longtime science, health and technology journalist and editor, his extensive background in related nonprofit and science communications inform his reporting on Earth and space sciences, neuroscience and behavioral health, and bioscience/biotechnology.Apart from travel and three years in Delaware spent earning his master’s degree in physical geography (climatology), Gerbis has spent most of his life in Arizona. He also holds a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Arizona State University’s Cronkite School and a bachelor’s degree in geography (climatology/meteorology), also from ASU.Gerbis briefly “retired in reverse” and moved from Arizona to Wisconsin, where he taught science history and science-fiction film courses at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He is glad to be back in the Valley and enjoys contributing to KJZZ’s Untold Arizona series.During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gerbis focused almost solely on coronavirus-related stories and analysis. In addition to reporting on the course of the disease and related research, he delved into deeper questions, such as the impact of shutdowns on science and medicine, the roots of vaccine reluctance and the policies that exacerbated the virus’s impact, particularly on vulnerable populations.